Flight School: Aircraft Power Systems

Time To Get Up and Running!

When it comes to setting up an aircraft, there are a lot of aspects to consider. One of those is going to be how to power your aircraft. There are a few options for powering your aircraft; you can fly with an internal combustion engine (such as glow, petrol, and turbine) or an electric motor. Let’s take a broad look at the different options.

An internal combustion system is going to operate with four basic components. One, a fuel source. This can be glow fuel – or nitro fuel – which is a mix of nitromethane, methane, and an oil, a petrol based fuel (such as gasoline or diesel), or a kerosene based fuel for turbine engines. Your fuel source will need to be kept in a fuel tank. Two, you will need the appropriate engine based on the type of fuel you wish use. Three, you will need fuel lines to connect the fuel source to your engine. Four, you will need the proper ignition system. Each type of engine has their own ignition system. We will keep that lesson for another segment.

The other option for powering your aircraft is to use an electric motor configuration. An electric configuration is typically easier to setup and maintain – just charge your batteries! The basics of an electric setup include your motor, an electronic speed controller, and your flight batteries. Again there are multiple types of motors and ESC’s (electronic speed controllers) to choose, but we will get into more detail in another segment as well.

Elite 35cc Brushless Motor and Jeti Mezon Pro 80 ESC

Photo Credit:
“Nitro Engine” – Gerry Yarrish. “Optimize your Model’s Fuel System.” Model Airplane News. Retrieved from https://www.modelairplanenews.com/optimize-your-models-fuel-system-improving-engine-performance-and-safety/. (2023).
“Turbine Engine” – “RC Turboprop Model Jet Engines Explained.” RC Airplanes Simplified. Retrieved from URL https://www.rc-airplanes-simplified.com/model-jet-engines.html. (2023)

Flight School: Signal Transmission

Ground Control to Major Tom…Uh, How Does It All Work?

Now that we know where it started, lets take a look at how radio control flight happens. The technology revolves around the use of radio waves. Radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with a frequency that lies between 10kHz to 100GHz1. Radio waves are used for long distance communication2.

Wavelength Size Comparison

Photo from Nasa.gov “Comparison of Wavelengths”4

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Photo from Nasa.gov “What are radio waves?”5

In the hobby, we use a transmitter to send radio signals with information (instructions) to a receiver, located somewhere in your model. The receiver, which is being powered by a battery, then takes that information and passes it along to what you have plugged into it, telling those devices what to do based on the original input at the transmitter. A very basic set-up, would consist of four servos plugged into the receiver, the receiver battery, and your transmitter.

A servo, otherwise known as a servo motor, is a “self-contained electrical device”3 with an electric motor connected to a gear set. You would then connect an arm to one of the gears and then to a control rod to mechanically control your flight surfaces (Rudder, Elevator, Ailerons, Flaps).

Photo from Sparkfun.com “Servos Explained”6

As technology advanced, the devices that you can place into your aircraft have also changed. Now-a-days, setups can range from basic (sport airplane) to a more advanced set-up (turbine aircraft) with multiple devices installed for both functionality and showman ship – and everything in between.

Browse our electronic flight components here!


  1. Author Unknown. “Communications System” Northwestern.edu. URL https://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/communications/2-more-about-radio-waves.html#:~:text=Radio%20waves%20are%20in%20the,hundred%20million%20vibrations%20per%20second). (February, 2023)
  2. Oxford English Dictionary. “Radio wave, n. 1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press. (February, 2023)
  3. Heason Technical Blog. “What is a Servo Motor Used For?” November, 2020. URL https://www.heason.com/news-media/technical-blog-archive/what-is-a-servo-motor-used-for- (February, 2023)
  4. NASA. “Comparison of Wavelengths” September 2018. URL https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/scan/communications/outreach/funfacts/txt_radiowaves.html (February, 2023)
  5. NASA. “Comparison of Wavelengths” August 2018. URL https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/scan/communications/outreach/funfacts/what_are_radio_waves (February, 2023)
  6. Spark Fun. “Servos Exlained” URLhttps://www.sparkfun.com/servos (February, 2023)